We spent 6 months after the election trying to find common ground in America — here’s what we learned

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Battle lines form between white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the ‘alt-right’, and anti-fascist counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017.
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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The scenes in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday were painful to watch. Americans fighting Americans with flags, clubs, tear gas, and fists.

The violent face-off between white nationalists and neo-Nazis and counter-protesters resulted in the death of one young woman who was mowed down with a car and two police officers who were monitoring the rallies when their helicopter crashed.

It seemed to be the culmination of the divisiveness that’s shaken this country since November 9, 2016, the ugliest election in recent memory.

But on Sunday, a chorus of voices rose to denounce the violence, and the hatred, and the bigotry, calling for us to come together.

After President Donald Trump took office, Business Insider wanted to find what unites us. We spent six months tracking down issues Americans actually agree on in a series we called Undividing America. Here’s what we learned:


First, we took a hard look at the divisions we are living in. We found some high schools are “resegregating”, splitting black and white, high- and low-income students back into separate schools based on where they live.

See the full story from Graham Flanagan here »


The loss of manufacturing jobs was one of the driving issues of the 2016 election, with Trump promising to bring them back from overseas. This downward spiral has hurt American men, and is even linked with them marrying less and dying sooner. But what’s scarier is that other jobs have been — and will continue to be — lost because of robots.

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As middle-income workers are pushed down the economic ladder — going from relatively higher-wage factory jobs to minimum-wage retail jobs — it’s making it harder for lower-income workers to pull themselves up.
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Reuters

See the full story from Elena Holodny here »


For people leaving prison, finding a job is even harder. The incarceration rate in the US is one of the highest in the world. Many “go immediately back to what they know” once they’re out of prison because it’s so difficult to find employment.

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Skye Gould/Business Insider

See the full story from Elena Holodny here »


Plus, convicted felons can’t vote. Experts think allowing the 6.1 million American disenfranchised adults to cast their ballots could change the course of elections.

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Prisoners work at computers following a graduation ceremony from a coding program administered by Silicon Valley’s business community at San Quentin State Prison in California on April 20, 2015.
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Reuters

See the full story from Elena Holodny here »


Many Trump supporters expressed fear that immigrants were taking their jobs. When the mayor of a small town in Vermont attempted to resettle 25 refugee families to revive his shrinking workforce, the vitriol it sparked cost him his job.

See the full story from Jeremy Berke here »


Part of the reason we’re so divided comes down to the language we use. Behind the scenes, experts from both parties are busy devising and testing new ways to frame hot-button issues designed to pull voters further into their camps.

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Skye Gould/Business Insider

See the full story from Mark Abadi here »


When we looked closer, we found that America was often not as divided as it seemed. We found signs of hope. As 28 Business Insider reporters and editors spent five months traveling the country, including stops in Alabama, Iowa, Texas, and Vermont, and talking to over 100 Americans, we found solutions rooted in common ground.

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Business Insider

See the full story from Dan Bobkoff here »


When you strip away the charged language, nearly all Americans agree we should protect the environment, and they see real solutions we can enact today to do it. We can do a lot to fight climate change — as long as we don’t call it “climate change.”

See the full story from Rebecca Harrington here »


Americans also surprisingly agree that rich people and corporations aren’t paying their fair share of taxes, that immigrants make our country stronger, that the federal government should make sure people have health insurance, and that we must uphold fundamental democratic values.

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Business Insider/Skye Gould

See the full story from Andy Kiersz and Skye Gould here »


While they are becoming more divided on abortion, most Americans think that federal funding should help protect the environment, that the government spends too little on education and infrastructure, and that same-sex and interracial couples should be legally allowed to wed.

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Business Insider/Skye Gould

See the full story from Andy Kiersz and Skye Gould here »


Emotions are still raw — 16% of Americans said they stopped talking to a family member or friend because of the election. We found one mother and daughter who hadn’t spoken to each other since, and captured their first conversation. Three months later, they’re still talking.

See the full story from Graham Flanagan here »

Source: Reuters/Ipsos


The US military has become more isolated from civilian life than at any period in the country’s recent history. While businesses often say they want to hire veterans, they’re frequently not ready for them, and military families are working to change that.

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Retired Army Maj. Scott Smiley and his wife Tiffany travel around the US to raise awareness about issues surrounding veterans and military spouses. Today, less than half of 1% of the US population is active duty.
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Tiffany Smiley

See the full story from Kate Taylor here »


A trip to Iowa shows daily farmers have a more nuanced take on the immigration debate currently ravaging the US. While American farmers tend to be conservatives, many depend on immigrant workers to keep their operations running — and some will go to extraordinary lengths to support them.

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American farmers, like Lee Maassen in Maurice, Iowa, are facing a political paradox because of Republicans’ hard line on immigration.
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Dana Varinsky/Business Insider

See the full story from Dana Varinsky here »


At the liberal enclave that is the University of Colorado Boulder, conservative academic Steven Hayward wasn’t the typical hire. But the school had recruited him to help their community diversify, and maybe even “stir up some trouble.”

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Students celebrate 4/20 — an important day for the marijuana-smoking and edible-ingesting community — at the University of Colorado Boulder in 2010.
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Flickr/Zach Dischner

See the full story from Abby Jackson here »


One of the most popular governors in America is a Democrat in a state Trump swept — and he’s part of a revolution of local leaders who believe that governing is about getting things done and pleasing as many people as possible along the way.

See the full story from Eliza Relman here »


The gap between “the rich” (families with $120,000-plus incomes) and everyone else is skyrocketing, partly driven by well-educated, well-paid women marrying well-educated, well-paid men. The imaginative power of the American Dream stems from the idea that it is available to everyone, and that’s in danger.

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It is not correct to describe the inequality problem as a “growing gap between rich and poor.”
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Skye Gould / Business Insider

See the full story from Richard Reeves here »


The gender wage gap is still 24 cents per dollar, and men and women’s perceptions of equality in the workplace has its own divide. But an overwhelming majority of Americans support paid family and medical leave, including President Donald Trump.

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Skye Gould/Business Insider

See the full story from Rachael Levy here »

Source: PayScale


While many of us realized we were living in political echo chambers after the election, a former Google data scientist reminded us that the same was true before the internet. People regularly reinforce each other’s beliefs in real life, too.

See the full story from Noah Friedman, Shana Lebowitz and Alana Kakoyiannis here »


Plus, a survey found there is nearly uniform consensus across every affiliation and demographic on the nature of facts. People get their facts from similar places like the media and the government, question partisan sources, and don’t rely on Trump’s tweets.

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Tech billionaire Steve Ballmer spent $10 million starting the site USAFacts, which commissioned the survey, to make government data on everything from crime to taxes available, and digestible, to ordinary citizens.
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Business Insider

See the full story from Julie Bort here »


Big data, however, may be driving politics further apart. Focusing on persuading voters with compelling ideas could be a more successful and less divisive strategy.

See the full story from Allan Smith here »


Texas is the breeding ground for a lot of bipartisan ideas. Once infamous for its ruthless, lock-’em-up justice system, Texas has staked out a hard-earned “smart on crime” consensus that’s being replicated in conservative states across the country.

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At 19, Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez was arrested for a misdemeanor, driving while intoxicated. He keeps his mugshot framed in his office.
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Ann Hermes/Christian Science Monitor

See the full story from Michelle Mark here »


In some cases, people are tearing down physical barriers that are dividing us. New York is spending $1.8 billion to remove a one-mile stretch of the Sheridan Expressway that split several communities in the Bronx when it opened to cars in 1963.

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Sarah Jacobs

See the full story from Danielle Muoio here »

And a photo essay about the project from Muoio and Sarah Jacobs here »


For eight seasons, ABC’s comedy “The Middle” flew under the radar — until Trump was elected. It follows a lower-middle-class family that lives paycheck-to-paycheck and somehow makes it work. A half-century ago, before entertainment fragmentation, a show like it might have driven the national conversation.

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The Heck family lives in Indiana, refers to themselves as “Hoosiers,” and uses humor to deflect some of the hard feelings about the tough times.
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ABC/Michael Ansell

See the full story from Jethro Nededog here »


We talked to the next generation of leaders, too —eight teens told us what they thought of Trump. Generation Z tends to sway socially liberal and moderate, but they’re moderate to conservative financially.

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Sierra Dunne helps her grandfather make and sell pizza in the parking lot where attendees are in line for a Trump rally in Farmington, New Hampshire on January 25, 2016.
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Reuters

See the full story from Leanna Garfield here »


The election was a rude awakening for marketers. At best, they realized that they had been largely indifferent to the wide swath of Americans living in “flyover country,” and, at worst, completely blind to them. Brands are now trying to court Trump voters.

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Middle America has long been lumped by marketers into one stereotype-laden bucket. But it’s more complex than that.
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Business Insider/Skye Gould

Reach the full story from Tanya Dua here »


128-year-old Carhartt is an example of a brand that both blue-collar workers and urban millennials have embraced. “They have the values and incredible deep appreciation for the idea of doing and making things yourself,” the company’s vice president of marketing Tony Ambroza told us.

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Carhartt has a reputation for creating very durable garments.
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Facebook/Carhartt

See the full story from Dennis Green here »


Chick-fil-A ignited a nationwide boycott in 2012 after its founder spoke out against gay marriage. But when the chain had national ambitions, it shed its polarizing image, focusing instead on good customer service, supporting its employees, and making delicious food.

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Chick-fil-A’s successful expansion north came after its biggest controversy.
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YouTube/The Texting Yoga Pants

See the full story from Hayley Peterson here »


Food is a powerful way to bring people together. In the predominantly African-American neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, we found David’s Brisket House, a Jewish deli that has been owned by the same Muslim family for 50 years.

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Today, even as Bed-Stuy faces vast socioeconomic change and gentrification, David’s Brisket House has survived as a neighborhood staple.
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Sarah Jacobs

See the full story from Sarah Jacobs here »


Investor Sam Altman wants to upend America with a crazy utopian plan for the future, complete with driverless cars, robot assistants, and free housing and healthcare for all. He’s got the money, the connections, and the know-how to make at least some of it happen. What could our future look like — if we undivided America?

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Sam Altman is the 32-year-old president of Y Combinator, the most prestigious startup accelerator in Silicon Valley.
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Drew Angerer/Getty

See the full story from Chris Weller here »